Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Open Society

"The Open Society is death for Closed Cabals".

Thanks to ThunderPig, again, for bringing the tdaxp blog to my attention. It's a rich resource along with a few others in that sphere.

Plus, an editor's note: The concensus usage of the term 5GW is exactly the meaning I argue against here. In order to participate in the wider discussion, I'm going to leave that question aside and allow that 5GW is a stealthier, spookier and more super-villain-genius like version of 4GW, at least for now.

Now to go on. From ZenPundit.
"Are democratic governments inherently poorly organized to fight 5GW? What structures (gov and non-gov) should a democratic nation-state develop to fight/detect 5GW?"

I think open societies are actually better poised than authoritarian or totalitarian ones to survive 5GW attacks because decision-making is decentralized, information flows are wide open and the degree of transparency is far higher ( if not actually transparent).

Nicolae Ceausescu was undone by elements within his own Stalinist security apparatus that kept him in the dark, manipulated and betrayed him. By his own orders and actions Ceaucescu's information feedback loop had come to resemble a funhouse mirror so that he did not even seem to realize that he had become the most hated figure in Romania until a fenzied mob was shouting for his blood. He died running frantically around a room screaming as Army recruits vied to be the first to blow his head off at close range. Three days earlier Ceaucsescu had the life of every Romanian in his hand - or so he thought.
What happens when access to the avenues of speech are closed, or when a small group or an individual control those avenues? We know what happens. Horizons narrow, flexibility dies and robustness wanes. The organization (or society) becomes an easy target for 4GW or 5GW attack.

What makes The 910 Group different from all the other anti-jihad organizations? That question was asked here once in one of the comments. One of the answers is this blog, where the gadfly and the rabble become part of the discussion. It's the rare and exceptional organization that takes this step right from the start.

It's this step that
keeps this group from becoming just another closed cabal, a few people exploiting your passion for liberty without scruple. The fact that I'm here, shouting from the hilltops, is the reason you should join The 910 Group.

I make it my business to explore strategy in the context of principal, looking for the modes of action that maximize both. I admit to a bias. My bias is that strategy and principal are natural allies, so that efficacy is greatest when they're in sync with each other, as is true in the case of 4GW and Jihad. The West's answer to that is somewhere in this discussion.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

There is no dog but Rufus

.. and I am his prophet.
And surely this instinct of the dog is very charming; --your dog is a true philosopher.


Why, because he distinguishes the face of a friend and of an enemy only by the criterion of knowing and not knowing. And must not an animal be a lover of learning who determines what he likes and dislikes by the test of knowledge and ignorance?
Plato's Republic, Book II

Here is the pivotal moment in Plato's Republic. Actually it's a little further up in the text, where Glaucon explains that what he wants is not so much a state that is good, but one that can allow him to "lie on sofas, and dine off tables, and [..] have sauces and sweets in the modern style."


Why, because the mechanics of reaching beyond the bare necessities of life requires people to specialize, then exploit one another, and then go to war, not necessarily in that order. It's a rather obvious observation made by someone (Plato) who knew a lot more about the life of a subsistence farmer in comparison to the life of a city dweller than any of us ever will. Consider it a primitive exercise in anthropology, if it makes you uncomfortable, or look past it and pay attention instead to Plato's larger project.

I've done my bit to talk about refinement, particularly the way in which refinement of processes and ideas can lead to a precarious plateau of false stability. But this is also the way change happens in social and behavioral systems. Paradigms fail, dramatically, sometimes tragically, and almost always along the fault lines of their internal contradictions, which are relentlessly exploited. Just because Hegel said it, doesn't mean it ain't true.

But Plato said it first, and I don't think I'm claiming anything unconventional to say that Plato's larger project, in the Republic as elsewhere, was to try to understand man's connection to the divine through his capacity for creation. To make things, to change things and to understand the process by which one thing leads to another is the divine, Plato would say erotic, act.

Glaucon wants sofas and sweets, for which he requires servants and slaves, hence power over others and the ability to defend oneself, ..., and all the rest follows. One need begets another until man is engaged in an amazingly complex social arrangement from which there is no return to simplicity. Imagination begets desire begets action. Action creates instability and uncertainty, and is answered with more action until finally a new plateau is achieved. A stalemate. It's as brittle as any other but for the moment, Glaucon gets his sofas and sweets.

And this is how man creates a civilization out of nothing. Out of nothing!

So how does one thing lead to another? Disruption, instability, renewal. Social and behavioral trends, as lines drawn through time, are a fiction. History never works that way. Like markets, or living organisms, social forces are opportunistic and advance through conflict and competition.

One application of this idea is as a criticism of the OODA view of the generations of warfare (h/t Thunder Pig). You can't draw straight lines through evolutionary processes to predict the future. If you could we'd all be rich and happy (we know now that fat is not happy).

Gen 4 was not a theoretical continuation of Gens 1, 2 and 3. It was a break from them. 1, 2 and 3 expressed a continued refinement of state organized massed (man/fire)power.

Gen 4 is simply not a continuation of any kind, but a response. Specifically, it's a response that is based on an ideology in which the very idea of a state is considered to be unnatural and evil, and comes at a time in which a single state, the US, is dominant in the world. Whether that dominance is a function of excellence in Gens 1,2,3 or is due to extraneous factors doesn't even matter. All that matters is that the trendline is broken.

And what is Gen 5? Speculations about its being all about stealth, or integration, all miss the point. Gen 5 is not going to be some kind of better, faster, lighter, more awesome Gen 4. Nor is it going to be some new development on a continuum of developments that can be theoretically skewered on an x/y axis.

It may not even happen, because to happen the states that are under attack have to make the choice to defend themselves. They have to want to survive. There are strong indications that they do not, which would prove that they really were just a momentary historical stalemate, in fact a bloody one that we'd all have been better off without and that, somehow unconsciously, we know enough to let go of. At least that's the question on the table.

If it does happen, Gen 5 will be the umbrella term given to describe the whole range of things we think up to do in response to Gen 4. I started looking at that list of things in my response to Christine here, but, as I note in that comment, the whole range of Gen 5 activities won't be enumerated until the war is over, assuming our side wins.

If we don't win, Gen 5 will be an internal Islamic rebellion, where the weapon of choice will be Rufus, the one true dog.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Homework review

I'm returning to Eteraz' fictional philosopher, this time not to debunk his arguments but to feel them out for insights. We're listening for those unarticulated cultural truths that underlie the made up arguments. I think Ali has a great feel for those genuine sensibilities that are the emotional starting points from which the arguments later bubble up.

The fictional philosopher is a tragic example of what happens when you try to graft western philosophical ideas onto eastern thought patterns. So, for the moment, I'd rather look underneath at the emotional worldview that informs jihadists, but more importantly their hundreds of millions of passive supporters.

They find our justice system cold and inhumane, untouched by the qualities of judgment and compassion. They find our legal system abstract and absurd, unconscious of human nature. Our political system, in their eyes, is a whore house.

One way to see underneath the argument is to look at the fictional philosopher's expressed view of Hobbes. The state of nature for Hobbes is a state of total war, every man against every other man. It's a state of unqualified brutality. To the fictional Muslim philosopher, the state of nature is a state of immanent and compelling relationships, warm flesh and blood people taking heed of one another and, naturally, at war with the state, with Leviathan. Man should be governed, in their view, by divine grace and the tools of divine grace, not the cold abstraction we call a state. That state, for Hobbes the solution to mans problems, is here a terrible imposition on and perversion of human nature. More importantly, it's a violent intrusion into man's relationship with god. Law, as the nation-state propagates it, is something stupid and unfeeling. Order, as the nation-state imposes it, is the order of slaves.

One can understand their enthusiasm for 4gw. It's a way of war that truly flows from their deepest convictions about the world. If we call them nihilists, we've entirely missed their point. They only want to sweep away the impediments to the natural fulfillment of human life as god intended it to be, and the greatest of these impediments is the nation-state.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


I'm doing a quick thanksgiving post because, besides whatever we may individually have to be thankful for, strictly in the context of what we're doing here we have a lot to be thankful for as well.

We're fortunate to be confronted with a fascinating challenge that makes demands of us on many levels. Growing up, I was often dismayed that a person like me, interested in political philosophy and political theory, would have little to do or think about in this age. Instead, all intellectual effort flowed like waste into the meat grinder of political science, a dronish activity that took root in shadow of the hollow empire of technocrat liberalism.

I have more respect for political science as a discipline today, but I'm also happy to know that ponderous burning core ponderings are still a necessary part of the discussion. In fact there's plenty to do for everyone, men of action and scribblers alike, and all of it is difficult and interesting. I'm thankful for that.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Homework Assignment

Ali Eteraz, whom I've discussed here before, has a very creative piece in which he imagines himself a Neo-Traditionalist philosopher. (h/t - Winds of Change)

I can't tell you what a neo-traditionalist philosopher is, because I've never heard of one, but I can tell you that Eteraz does a very good impression of postmodern pseudo-leftist Islamist sophistry. Readers of this blog should be able to debunk every part of it, point by fallacious point.

So that's your assignment.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

closing thoughts on open source

We've come full circle and I find myself naturally led to review Christine's comments that were quoted in the second post on this blog.
... what I think is happening is an “open source” movement in public diplomacy – sort of like the open source software movement of the last decade, where developers decided to work together, on the Internet, voluntarily, to improve software (Linux OS resulted from open source software development).

Some things are just too important to leave in the hands of the experts, or the bureaucrats, or certainly the State Department. If, as Clausewitz said, “War is not an independent phenomenon, but the continuation of politics by different means…” , then the asymmetric warfare being waged against Western civilization requires a countering asymmetric “politics” – an internet based, “open source” movement committed counter-attack against the internet based jihadist ideologues.

Unlike the current blogosphere, open source was highly disciplined, in a kind of milling-about, “wisdom of crowds” complex system way – they did have a final product they were working towards, and everyone just kept trying to improve it and use it at the same time.
While I don't think Christine specifically meant to contrast open source with 4gw, our conversations have led us to do so, particularly because of the fact that organizational choices have moral and social consequences. Compared to 4gw, open source feels wholesome and clean. Leadership in open source culture is strictly merit based, participation is always self selecting and self directed, and the basic organizational model is "follow me".

An open source political model would necessarily be transparent and, because of that, invite principled behavior among its participants. That's nothing like 4gw which, as we saw, excels to the extent that its participants exploit their host society. That should call to mind a few comparisons between government models. It also illustrates how easy it is to draw the practical distinctions that will keep projects on the better path, even though both styles share a lot of buzzwords like asymmetric, distributed and networked. None of these superficial similarities can make up for the huge differences in the underlying ethos of these two ideas.

Most open source projects never attract participation from anyone beyond the original creator. On the bright side, the effort to work up to public standards is a good excersize and there is always the hope that someone will show up later to extend the work. That's a familiar set of conditions for most academic work, not surprisingly.

In an open source work environment, work tends to speak for itself and people show up to do work rather than talk about it. It's like showing up at the gym instead of, say, a coffee shop. In many publicly viewable projects, you're lucky if you find much more than the code itself and an out of date readme file. In a political context, more chit chat is to be expected, but one can still hope to find more project tables than chat rooms in a community that is aiming to work along open source lines.

This post, low key as it is, wraps up what I'll call chapter 1 of this blog, so I want to finish by reemphasizing the idea that has dominated my thinking about The 910 Group. That idea, and I know I'm beating it to death but repetition is necessary in these things, is that the defenders of a culture inevitably shape that culture. Therefore all the choices that are made and all the habits that are cultivated have consequences beyond the group itself. In the same way that Michel Corleone could not protect his family from violence by embracing violence, The 910 Group can only protect the values of western society by fully embracing those values within itself.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


Interest in 4gw concepts continues, understandably, since the jihadists have mastered these concepts to greater and lesser degrees (depending on the group) and it seems that we should master them as well. Therefore I think a look at the limitations of 4gw concepts is in order.

At the end of the recent war between Israel and Hizbollah, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad remarked on his intention to create a Hizbollah like group on the southern border between Syria and Israel, on the grounds that Hizbollah had shown much greater success than Syrian troops had ever shown against the IDF.

What Assad was glimpsing was the efficacy of 4gw in battle, albeit in a hybridized form specific to southern Lebanon and the particular politics of Hizbollah. The ability to blend with the population, recast a military battle as a moral one, fight with little or no battlefield communications and manage expectations so that merely surviving amounted to winning were a few of the advantages that Hizbollah enjoyed in that war.

Another key advantage, a subtle one and one that is shared with all Islamic terror groups, is that surrounding populations are able to quietly support them at no nominal cost. What that means is that individuals can and do claim no responsibility for the actions of this or that faction, deplorable as those actions surely are, and reject the argument that appeasement, apologetics and passive support of various kinds amount to culpable participation. Because the groups are not officially responsible for the population, the population does not have to claim responsibility for them. It's a scheme that challenges the protection racket foundation of every social order we know of, going back as far as you like.

I say 'nominal cost' because obviously the living conditions in a place like Gaza surely amount to a cost that would not otherwise be born. Having your village wiped out by the Israeli air force is also a stiff cost. The benefits of culpable deniability in these cases are limited to gaining sympathy after the fact. The benefits on the ground in western countries are far less limited, and I'm sure all of you can name the organizations that reap those benefits.

Another downside to 4gw is that there are moral consequences to society. If the fighting class is not responsible to protect people and territory in the traditional sense, and the people have no duty to claim allegiance to the fighting class, then forthrightness is simply lost as a social value. Since the viability of 4gw fighting groups is based on their being unofficial and under the radar (and therefore hard to target by a traditional military, which is the whole point), the more important they are to the group they're fighting for, the more perverted morally and intellectually that group must become.

The 4gw warrior is an anti-hero. He provokes and then exploits the misery of his people and is willing to corrupt them for the cause. A hero doesn't do these things.

For these reasons it's obvious that no prominent western counter-jihad groups can adopt 4gw concepts wholesale without substantial risk to the culture itself.

These same risks would necessarily attend the creation of a Syrian backed freelance fighting group on the Golan. However, since conditions in Syria are completely different from those in Lebanon, the risks to Assad as a copycat are far higher. His regime already lacks even marginal legitimacy. Leaving aside the logistical weaknesses of the idea, any effort to disclaim the activities of this fighting group, say volleys of rockets into Israel, would undermine it further.

So what do we have? 4gw threatens the bonds of loyalty and faith that ideally exist between a population and its fighting class, ultimately leading the society itself to become morally corrupt and unhealthy. We've seen this among Palestinians in a most acute form, as well as in other places.

At the same time, adopting some 4gw ideas both appears to be necessary as a counter to jihad and appears to be inevitable as a response to the failure of western governments to mount a sufficient response. In other words people are picking it up, risks and all, and we're left with the question of how to manage those risks.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

A fighting class

In a previous post, I mentioned the idea that a community, or a civilization if you want to think big, takes the political form of those who defend it. The political habits of the fighting class become the political habits of the community as a whole.

For example, lawyers are the fighters in the corporate world, and business practices from top to bottom reflect their influence.

Following the same logic, In a world where bloggers fill the truth seeking gap left open by the MSM, ..., what? Where does this lead? If the fighting class in the world of reporting and media is made up of amateurs, what are the consequences to that world? What are the values of these bloggers? How do they relate to each other? What are their internal social codes?

If The 910 Group seriously intends to accomplish great things, it needs to start by answering these questions. Such self knowledge is a prerequisite to success.

A mission statement that talks about liberty and jihad is nice, but in the context of its goals The 910 Group is effectively a media guild, and it needs to codify a set of first principles for itself that are relevant to that identity.

Some of those first principles are going to be obvious. They're the same principles that one would desire a major media organization to uphold.

- transparency
- truth seeking as an end in itself
- vigilance

Others may be less obvious, perhaps reflecting the advantages that bloggers have over professional media. For example, instead of pretending not to have biases, bloggers begin by revealing their biases. Honesty thus removes the veil, permitting a freedom of thought and exploration that are not available to someone whose personal beliefs are being suppressed.

Surely there's more. But adding items to a list doesn't accomplish anything. Each item has to also be true in the deepest sense.

I'm going to start by getting this blog in line with the first principle listed above, transparency.

I detest secret societies, exclusive cliques, private clubs and all those sorts of organizations that function according to the dynamics of the inner circle. There's my personal bias. Instead I value transparency, particularly for this group that is so much about addressing the failure of media.

I'm going to make a rule about this blog, and one that will also apply to everything that flows from and follows this blog. The rule is simple, and it states that anything anyone needs to say about this blog can be said publicly, right there in the comment section.

What could be simpler, and it goes directly to the heart of the idea that the way we, the bloggers, the new fighting class, behave will become the model for the society that follows us and is influenced by us.

The 910 Group exists to nurture a stronger, more self conscious and self consciously proud western civilization that can withstand attacks on its identity. We should begin, like the Athenian citizen soldiers, by behaving among ourselves according the principles we claim to uphold for all.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

re-circulated mission statement, RFC

In the endless international game of rock/paper/scissors, paper beats rock. The enemies of the west are currently well stocked with paper and the west, mainly the US, is currently well stocked with rocks. So we have a problem.

The west needs a good pair of scissors.

I view The 910 Group as being in the scissor business. What that means exactly is still being worked out. Does it mean manufacturing scissors? Being them? Collecting and distributing them? I guess individual group members have to work that question out for themselves.

The group is in constant debate about its identity and purpose. Here's the original mission statement and here's a more recent longer version. In my last post, I talked about arriving at a consensus about social values and purpose. It's good to see that process continuing.

Monday, November 06, 2006

You Bastards

Islam is the Real Civilization

The Islamic society is not one in which people call themselves 'Muslims' but in which the Islamic law has no status, even though prayer, fasting and Hajj are regularly observed; and the Islamic society is not one in which people invent their own version of Islam, other than what God and His Messenger-peace be on him-have prescribed and explained, and call it, for example, 'progressive Islam' [...]

The Islamic society is, by its very nature, the only civilized society, and the jahili societies, in all their various forms, are backward societies. It is necessary to elucidate this great truth
It should be easy, as a fundamentalist, to judge the legitimacy of a government. But it's not easy. Your sources are static and the world is not. You may be restless and perpetually unsatisfied. You may grow violent and obsessive. You may have competitors claiming to have greater zeal and better judgment than you.

The matter is important because a community has to function on some basis, knowing itself and its justification. If you can't arrive at a comfortable consensus for the justifications of your way of life, your culture will fail to provide the soil that nurtures life. Everybody cares about that.

Legitimacy in western political thought is bound up with the knowledge of human fallibility. No human created thing, including a government, is capable of perfection. Since there are two major threads of political thought, left and right, this idea takes two broad forms. On the left, continuous progress is the common element of a range of ideologies that includes Marxism at one extreme and a kind of maternal statism at the other. While Marxism is actually based on a theory of history, all left wing political thought assumes constant political evolution. On the right, while there is no emphasis on an idea of directional progress, it's nevertheless understood that constant striving for and falling short of perfection is the way human life, and thus human government at its best, unfolds. Ideally, a society can adapt without losing its soul.

The fight between these two halves of western political thought is huge. It's massive. It has at times consumed the world and at others threatened to destroy it. But both are still expressions of the same idea.

CHORUS singing

- strophe 1
Wonders are many, and none is more wonderful than man; the power that crosses the white sea, driven by the stormy south-wind, making a path under surges that threaten to engulf him; and Earth, the eldest of the gods, the immortal, the unwearied, doth he wear, turning the soil with the offspring of horses, as the ploughs go to and fro from year to year.

- antistrophe 1
And the light-hearted race of birds, and the tribes of savage beasts, and the sea-brood of the deep, he snares in the meshes of his woven toils, he leads captive, man excellent in wit. And he masters by his arts the beast whose lair is in the wilds, who roams the hills; he tames the horse of shaggy mane, he puts the yoke upon its neck, he tames the tireless mountain bull.

- strophe 2
And speech, and wind-swift thought, and all the moods that mould a state, hath he taught himself; and how to flee the arrows of the frost, when 'tis hard lodging under the clear sky, and the arrows of the rushing rain; yea, he hath resource for all; without resource he meets nothing that must come: only against Death shall he call for aid in vain; but from baffling maladies he hath devised escapes.

- antistrophe 2
Cunning beyond fancy's dream is the fertile skill which brings him, now to evil, now to good. When he honours the laws of the land, and that justice which he hath sworn by the gods to uphold, proudly stands his city: no city hath he who, for his rashness, dwells with sin. Never may he share my hearth, never think my thoughts, who doth these things!
This question of legitimacy is not merely academic. Systems increasingly govern the world. Two of those systems (EU, Islam) have ambiguous territory and are inscrutible to non-experts. The societies they rule over are therefore incapable of self criticism, even if they desire it.